Psakis’ Thursday press conference was one of her last events as Biden’s White House Press Secretary, as she’s set to leave the job on Monday.
However, despite it being one of her last days in the job, the reporters at the event weren’t willing to let her off the hook easily, particularly on the issue of the baby formula shortage.
Asking her about the FDA recall that many argue is in large part responsible for the shortage and resulting crisis, Jacqui Heinrich, a Fox News White House correspondent, said:
Thank you, Jen. A couple of quick follow-ups on baby formula and then I want to get to something else.
It does seem like we should have seen this coming that maybe the FDA could have done more on the baby formula shortage. The whistleblower who used to work at that Sturgis plant warned the FDA top officials about safety concerns in October, but they didn’t interview that whistleblower until December. The inspection was until January 31st. The recall happened February 17th. So is that timeline acceptable to the White House? And if not, what is the White House doing to correct that at the FDA?
Now that’s an important question: if the FDA had warning of the situation back in October why did it wait until now to deal with it?
Furthermore, if it knew about the situation for so long, why were no safeguards put in place to make sure that there wouldn’t be a hugely problematic shortage?
Predictably, Psaki had no real answer to the question. Trying to respond to Heinrich, she said:
I’m sure there will be plenty of time to take a look at if there are any issues that could have been improved here. I don’t have any specific analysis of that at this moment in time.
What I will note is that there has been work ongoing on this for months. That’s how we increase the supply and how we’re able to, you know, increase the sales based on the month of April overall.
But there’s more that needs to be done. Clearly, we don’t want any parent to fear about not being able to provide formula to their child. And as I noted at the top, the President is, you know, leaving no stone unturned in addressing this.
Perhaps he now is leaving no stone unturned, but it sure seems like unturning some stones ahead of time and planning ahead for the crisis that would surely result from a massive recall. But that was left unmentioned.
Heinrich then turned to another important question: is the government planning on addressing the fact that a few companies control essentially the whole market? Asking about that, Heinrich said:
I didn’t see anything in the factsheet related to possible antitrust concerns. According to one report, 89 percent of the market is controlled by four companies. I know the President has tried to increase competition in other areas where it’s consolidated, like meatpacking. So is there going to be any call for increased competition in that industry coming from the White House?
Once again, Psaki had no answer, simply saying:
Jacqui, it’s a good question. I have not been made aware of that being a concern here, but I’m happy to raise it and see if there’s more to tell you.